6 Jan 2011

North Korea offers 'unconditional' talks with South

8:29 pm on 6 January 2011

North Korea has offered "unconditional" talks with the South, in its most conciliatory remarks since the nuclear-armed state shelled a South Korean island.

In an unusually cordial statement carried by its KCNA agency, North Korea said the communist nation "courteously proposes having wide-ranging dialogue and negotiations", AFP reports.

The statement says Pyongyang is ready to meet anyone "anytime anywhere", and calls for unconditional and early opening of talks among officials with "real power and responsibility".

South Korean officials were dismissive of the comments, questioning their sincerity.

Fifty South Koreans died last year in attacks by the North, including 46 when a corvette was torpedoed on 26 March and four in an artillery barrage on the island of Yeonpyeong on 23 November.

Seoul responded by holding massive live-fire military drills.

North Korea has also heightened security fears by disclosing a uranium enrichment plant, which specialists say could be used to develop materials for atomic weapons, to visiting nuclear experts from the United States.